by E. L. Zimmerman
Her field of vision narrowed, ambient light crisscrossed with stripes of the angriest black.
Darkness licked at the corners of her sight until it began to consume the colors spiraling in her hazy view. As the colors digested, the nothingness grew exponentially, until she realized that there was very little left to distinguish.
Then … life, itself, blackened completely, surrendering to inevitable death, and, in desperation, a suffocating Kathryn Janeway somehow made the only move she knew, hoped, prayed might save herself.
Ignoring her deepest fear to take life, she raised her Borg limb and, again, somehow found the ability deep within her psyche to activate the whirling blades. The whining razors spun, accompanied by a high-pitched squeal that pierced even her readily failing hearing. With all the effort she could muster, she thrust the ripping saw into the Trakill Visi, the battle armor the One wore.
Suddenly, miraculously, a shower of sparks fired directly into the One’s face.
Startled more than injured by the intense heat, His Highness behaved completely out of character and … panicked. Yelping, he released her, his arm morphing back to its traditional shape, and he dropped Voyager’s captain to the floor in a resounding thud as he lumbered backward, confused, afraid … seeking a spot where he hoped he would be out of danger of her dangerous prosthetic.
Gasping for air, Janeway fought the dizziness. She coughed viciously, her lungs heaving, forcing the welcome gush of air into and out of her mouth, desperately trying to speed her recovery.
Looking up, she found that the One was fighting disorientation.
Angrily, grimacing, definitely, she leapt to her feet.
While the One recovered his footing before her, she lunged at him …
… and tapped the comm badge he had taken from her not long after he had entered her Bridge.
“Harry,” she screamed, grasping her own neck to massage the pain, “lock onto my comm badge signal and beam His Grace out of here!”
“With pleasure, ma’am!”
In obvious horror, the One’s eyes widened.
Bound inside the armor, he suddenly dematerialized from the bridge.
Struggling to stay upright, fighting the vertigo accompanying her near-asphyxiation, the captain tiredly faced the main viewer.
A tiny pinprick of white transporter light blinked onto the screen near the edge of the leading Borg cube. Squinting, the captain could just make out the One’s flailing arms and legs as the shapeshifter angrily tore the battle armor from his body … and he was possibly trying to alter his form. The sudden materialization in weightless space must’ve left him disoriented, she realized, and he spun wildly out of control, bobbing to and fro, adrift.
… the lead Cube fired.
The beam reached for and struck the pinprick of light that was the One. His Highness, his arms still visibly flailing, was engulfed into a ball of intense crimson flames …
… and then vanished.
‘Extinction,’ she thought.
‘Maybe he was right after all.’
“We are the Borg.”
Suddenly, Kathryn Janeway felt another hand on her. She was forcibly whirled around by one of the Borg drone that had beamed aboard, one of the assault team taking control of a defenseless Voyager. Glaring intently at her, the sentry stated, “Prepare for assimilation.”
She raised a hand …
On the main viewer, there flashed a brilliant orange flame.
The captain and her Borg aggressor turned quickly to see a second dazzling beam of Twelfth Power Energy tear through space. Glistening, the beam easily lanced through one Cube, the leading ship, and, as it tore out the far side, it breached outer space and gnashed into a second craft. Exploding, the two ships lost all semblance of cohesion, their hulls buckling, crumbling, and burning. The two Cubes tilted, split, tumbled, and erupted into wildly effulgent flames.
‘Two more down.’
‘Six to go.’
“Captain,” Harry shouted, “I have Pulse Command back online!”
“On screen!” she agreed.
A smiling Commander Chakotay replaced the sight of the drifting Borg Cubes. Tuvok, the Borgified Tom Paris, and the Doctor flanked the familiar-faced Lemm.
“Borg Fleet,” Chakotay stated emphatically. “This is Commander Chakotay of the Starship Voyager. I, and my crewmates, have secured the Besarian Pulse Cannon. I’m giving you thirty seconds to leave this sector, or I will commence firing.”
Finally, silence fell over the Voyager Bridge.
Chakotay quickly disappeared from the screen, and the lumbering Borg Armada showed once more.
“We will comply,” came the reply.
Suddenly, the Borg holding Kathryn reached up with his other arm. Tubules automatically extended and pierced her neck.
‘No!’ she prayed.
… but she lacked the strength to fight any more.
Within a split second, the drone no longer held her within his grasp.
She shook her head, clearing the stinging sensation from her neck, and found her attacker lying on the floor, glancing up at Santiago Cole.
“We are the Borg,” Cole stated icily.
The Collective had reclaimed him.
“The Collective has ordered us to vacate this sector,” he continued. “Assimilation efforts will cease at once. We will comply.”
Next, Cole glanced sideways at Janeway.
He didn’t say anything.
He stared at her for several long seconds.
Realizing that she still carried it, she reached into a pocket and retrieved his Starfleet insignia. Cautiously, she reached out, offering it to him.
The drone studied the insignia.
“That property is irrelevant,” he eventually stated. “We are Borg. We will comply. We will vacate this sector of space.”
She heard the hum of transporter signatures engaging. Glancing around, she noticed that several of the Lemm, including Mandakorr, as well as Senator Cytal, had been assimilated in the altercation. With their new counterparts, they were dematerializing as well.
“No!” Harry cried. “Mandakorr!”
Just as suddenly as the Borg had arrived, Voyager’s Bridge was void of them.
Turning weakly to the main viewer, Janeway found that the armada was slowly moving away.
“Captain,” Harry shouted from his station, “they assimilated Mandakorr!”
“I know Harry.”
“We have to get him back,” the ensign insisted, “if we want to have any chance at all of finding ChannelSpace!”
Packell, who had escaped assimilation, stepped forward from the Sciences Station. “Pursuit wouldn’t be wise, captain.”
“Agreed,” she said.
“There may still be time for me to establish a transporter lock on the Gallenian,” Harry reasoned. “Captain, with your permission -”
Exhausted, she shook her head sadly at the junior officer.
“Not today, Harry,” she surrendered, rubbing her neck, soothing the pain she felt from the Borg tubules and the One’s final grip.
“But, captain -”
“Stand down red alert,” she ordered, ignoring the dizziness she felt and, instead, walked easily toward the helm. With Mandakorr gone, they’d need a pilot, and she was the best person available for the job. “Reestablish contact with the commander. Have him deactivate that planetary shield. I’m going to get us the hell away from here … fast!”